Duterte to US troops: Leave Mindanao

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED 6:50 p.m.) — After blasting the US for supposedly interfering with his anti-drug war, President Rodrigo Duterte Monday called for the pullout of American troops in Mindanao as he blamed Washington for the conflict and security threats in the south.
Duterte said American troops in Mindanao should leave as they are in danger of being abducted by US-hating terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.
“The special forces, they have to go. They have to go in Mindanao. There are many whites there,” the president said during the oath taking of new appointees Monday in Malacañan.
“If they see an American, they would kill him.  They would demand ransom then kill him. Even if you’re a black or white American as long as you are an American, (they will kill you),” he added.
Some US troops have been deployed in Zamboanga City to assist Philippine security forces in its campaign against terrorists. Since the Constitution prohibits foreign troops from engaging in direct combat operations, the US soldiers assist the military through training and information sharing.
“The situation there (in Mindanao) will worsen. If they (Americans) are seen there, they will be killed,” Duterte said.
The president said he could not express the sentiment during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet in Laos last week, which was also attended by US President Barack Obama.
“I could not speak then out of respect and I do not want a rift with America. But they have to go,” the president said.
Under Duterte, the Philippines has had an uncomfortable relationship with the US, its treaty partner and longtime ally. The Philippine president has scored the American government for allegedly moralizing about human rights despite its past atrocities. 
The US has expressed deep concerns over Duterte’s war on drugs, which human rights advocates claimed encourages summary executions. Nearly 3,000 suspected drug offenders have been killed since Duterte assumed office, almost half of them by suspected vigilante groups.
Duterte lashed back at the US by citing its supposed failure to stop the killing of African-Americans by policemen and by accusing it of “exporting terrorism” in the Middle East.
The president continued with his tirades against the US Monday as he blamed Washington for the violence in Iraq and Libya. He also showed photos of the Bud Dajo massacre, wherein Moro rebels and civilians were killed by US forces during the Filipino-American war.
The photo showed American soldiers with piles of dead Moros including naked women. About 1,000 Filipino Muslims were reportedly killed during the atrocity, which happened in Jolo in 1906.
“The US is a hypocrite,” Duterte said.
The photos of the Bud Dajo massacre were also shown by Duterte during last Thursday’s East Asian Summit in Laos.
“Look at the bodies there... For as long as we stay with America, we will never have peace in that land. We might as well give it up," Duterte said.
“See the soldiers stepping on a woman’s bare breast… They even made a postcard out of it,” he added.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte’s statement reflects the president’s “new direction towards coursing an independent foreign policy.”  
“He (Duterte) has made reference to the unrecognized, unrepented and unatoned for massacre at Bud Dajo in Sulu by the Americans, hence our continued connection with West is the real reason for the ‘Islamic’ threat in Mindanao,” Abella said in a statement.
“The American silence on the matter lacks congruence with its 'moral' position, in the light of actions taken in the past by the Germans who confessed and made atonement for the Holocaust, and Japan which made reparations for the atrocities it perpetrated among the peoples they conquered,” he added.  
Abella said Duterte is on “morally firm ground” by “breaking up walls that cover dark corners” in the bilateral ties between the Philippines and the US.
Duterte has vowed to pursue an independent foreign policy and has repeatedly stressed that he is not beholden to anyone but the Filipino people. 

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